Concrete and Abstract Dreams


Alicia Keys’ song ‘New York’ rings in my head even now, weeks after my journey to the Big Apple.  “Concrete city where dreams are made of, NEW YORK, there’s nothing you can do….”

An exhausting but exhilarating whirlwind tour of a city of contrasts. Dark and light. New and old. Rich and poor. A very real place where the people were friendly, the food was delicious and the buildings gave me whiplash as I lifted my head repeatedlyand stared wide-eyed at those magnificent structures above me.

I grew up watching so many films about New York (as we all do) and feeling like I know it already. I was visiting a new but old place. I looked down from the Empire State building where the cold wind blew us from left to right in the little enclosed cage we were in. The yellow taxis and people looked like little insects crawling in the shadows of the concrete and glass skyscrapers. This is what birds see I thought to myself. This is what God sees maybe too.

It was hard to get back into the swing of things once we got back to London with the five hour time difference and my aching leg muscles. I also had fitful dreams; one which ripped me out of my sleep and planted fear and anxiety in me for days.

I was sexually assaulted by a man and I left two little boys in the house. I told the older one I would find help and come back. I worried for their safety with that man without empathy in the house. I couldn’t stay to be hurt again. I ran to the neighbours whose glass doors gave a full and clear view of my desperation yet they pushed me away with their cold stares. They wouldn’t open their glass door. They were so close and so far.

I had to keep running, I avoided the main road and went through side streets. Desperate phone calls went unheeded and then gatecrashing a party where a man who looked like he would help ended up being more concerned about himself and whose suitcase proved too heavy to lug around with us. And all the time those boys had been left behind and I felt guilt and fear and pain and desperation.

My previous counsellor told me dreams were one way for the psyche to try and heal itself that it was happening without me being conscious of the process. That dream I have just described is laden with symbols and depth and meaning for me.

I know that man without empathy is my father. He didn’t see me when he sexually abused me when I was so little. Those boys are my younger brothers. I left for university and never returned. My mother is the neighbour who saw and refused to see, close but far.

It is incredible how my psyche wants to heal. How I return to those places in dreams re-enacting over and over again. It is significant that I ran, that I tried to save myself. As a five year old girl, I had nowhere to run to escape. Parts of me are growing healing. Things are shifting, moving slowly.

Life is incredible, full of contrasts,  the beauty of new places discovered and the old pain of the past and so much in between that we are not even conscious of.


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